Sunday, February 1, 2015

Travel Notes from Tansen, Nepal

The Tansen bus park is noisy, polluted and dirty. The secret alleys smell of urine, and the animal shit is just everywhere. But once you've made your way up the center bazaar, the magic comes to life. This town seems like it was transported back in time when travelers pass by enroute to Tibet. Ah, the maze.   At first, the roads lead to everywhere, and you'll certainly be confused which way to go where. Oftentimes, i find myself choosing left or right, up or down. But eitherway, any direction will lead you to narrow streets filled with so many amazing wonders -- be it a really old Newari house, a lovely merchant selling all things from gold to dhaka, and the occassional beer shops. 

At my room here at Horizon Homestay, there's a picture hanging on the wall which says Tansen is the window to Nepal. As days pass by, i see why. The real magic of Nepal is not the famous bakeries of Kathmandu nor the adrenaline-pumping activities of Pokhara. It's Bandipur which makes those in solitude more quiet, or Tansen which makes friendly people even more outspoken.

Tansen is not that small. I was thinking of a small town on the hill. It's thriving and booming, but commercialism hasn't tapped yet this beautiful hill station. With occassional stop-overs from tour groups, the only excitement here is seeing one foreign people walking around the bazaar. People who go here have more time in their hands, and are open to visiting off the beaten path places. I've felt blessed to be able to wander around, and i have no regrets visiting Tansen.

Yesterday, i walked around and bumped into the same set of people who helped me find the homestay where i am right now. Eager to converse, i was invited in the bedroom. I was offered a plate of fruits, and i hang out at their balcony. They have the best view in town. The room is small which can only fit two people, but i can feel the warmth of their welcome. The brothers who've become my new friends here are friendly, and i felt like i was their long lost brother. I shared my camera with one brother, and he took photos of the view. I've learned so many things about Tansen, and how their daily life is. The three brothers are all studying at, yes, New Horizon school. I asked the older brother what he wants to take up in college. He said, "Engineering". Whether be it petrol or gas engineer, beats me. I spent an amazing two hours on the rooftop, chatting. They wanted to take me up to Shreenagar Hill, but i wasn't in the mood yet to trek. I wanted to just feel the vibe of the place first, then i sweat. It was a lovely time, but i needed to explore Tansen on my own. 

Passing through, i've stopped at Sitalpati which is suppose to be the main square. Now, it's one place where all the people come to sit, chat, buy stuff to pass time, and just people watch. There are amazing Hindu temples around the vicinity that's not too hard to reach. All of which reminded me of the durbar squares in Kathmandu valley but with no tourist in sight. I've seen two Hindu weddings in 1 day, all of which let me see a couple men and women dancing on the street parading.

After much walking, i stooped by at Nanglo West for some chicken burger. I overheard a couple of German people who said that the food they have is terrible. I enjoyed my burger although it was not the best. The attentive staff makes up for it.

To be honest, sometimes i feel a little intimidated when i see local people looking at me, and obviously talking about me, and sometimes laughing. But, it must have been too hard to digest for them that this person who looks like everyone in town is not Nepali. I reckon, i would feel the same, if i saw one person who looks Filipino but is not. 

When i first started roaming around, it was a Saturday. And Saturdays in Nepal are a holiday. There's no school, some shops are only open, and most people are at home relaxing on this day. Yesterday, as Abbhie was playing, i was manning the house while Dhanie and Jhaneeka are out for some errands,  Today was different. Sunday is school/work/shop day. So imagine my amazement when i walked out of my homestay this afternoon, only to see the madness of the first day of the week shebang.

I think i will stay here in Tansen for a few more days, but not too long like Bandipur. I love the homestay here, and Dhani, Jhaneeka, and Abbhie are the best. But everytime i look at them, i see Rukum and his wife, and their adorable kids. 

Today, i trekked for a bit to watch sunrise and sunset. I will tell you guys more about it tomorrow. I also have a new gold earring which i bought for 100 rupees. Okay, it's not gold but whatever. I saw many young boys sporting the gold earring, and i found out it's part of the tradition. And for the nth time, i have a new Nepali hat which i will wear tomorrow to blend even more. Palpa is famous for dhaka fabric, so i get the stuff right from the source. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Travel Notes from Pokhara-Palpa (Tansen) Part 2

crashed my bed here at Horizons Homestay at 9PM. Back home, i usually sleep just before sunrise. So, imagine how healthy i am now that my body clock has adjusted to the daily life in Nepal. If only i could limit my sugar intake with my favorite soda, then it would be good. Because of the lack of cigarette sellers here in Tansen, I finish a pack of Surya in 2-3 days which is excellent, I've been here in Nepal for 3 weeks now, and Terai region interests me a lot now. Apart from the string of beautiful Newari towns in the Kathmandu Valley, and the Everest/Annapurna trekking, not much has been said about Terai. To begin with, Terai boasts of Chitwan National Park -- the home of one-horned rhinos and a Unesco-World Heritage Site. Terai also has Lumbini -- the birth place of Buddha and again, a Unesco-World Heritage Site. Both of which, i am quite excited to go to in the coming weeks. But for now, let's start with the dramatic, cold-sweating, butt-breaking ride from Pokhara to Tansen via Bartung along Siddharta Highway. 

I've passed by unbelievable roads cut through the mountains in Indonesia, Myanmar and some parts of Sri Lanka, but i was not prepared for Siddharta Highway. On my rough estimate, the bus i was riding may have passed across 5 huge mountains, zig-zagging along hundred feet deep gorges, snaking around the holy Gandaki river. I was not able to take photos or videos along the way, because i was constantly moving the whole time. For the effort, and keeping us all safe, the driver deserve a whopping applause from me. There were a couple of Puja stops along the way, but the last one prepared for the yet unbelievable ride approaching Tansen. We were speeding around 80km/hr on deep terrain that becomes witness to multitude of landslides during the rainy season. To top that, my rucksack was on the roof. Luckily, both I and my dirt proof rucksack survived the journey. When i arrived at Bartung Junction, i saw a jeep waiting for a couple more passengers. Off i paid the man 20 rupees for the 4 kilometers ride up to Tansen. The public bus fare only costs 320 rupees for the six-hour journey which was way more thrilling, than let's say, paragliding. 

When i finally set foot on the bus park of Tansen, what welcomed me were the throng of young Maoist teenagers marching and rallying. Good thing, the amazing Gurkha soldiers were there to keep them sane. As anybody whose been to Nepal will tell you, "Stay away!". With 40 kilos in my back, i found a quiet side along the eateries who most of which close down along with the passing strike. The bank was half-closed, and some bystanders watch should there be any commotion. Thankfully, they all left peacefully, and i was already on my way to finding a place to stay. The road in Tansen is motorbike friendly, because most of the roads to and from the bus park were all on 90 degree incline. Going down was a breeze, but walking up is such a pain in the ass. I asked random people were Horizon Home Stay is, and most of the people would point me to the school. Later on, i found out that there's also a secondary school named New Horizon, where Abby, the son of David, the owner of Horizon Homestay, study. 

On one of the garages, i met this young man named Suzit who helped me find the homestay. It was about 4 kilometer up from the bus park so imagine my delight that a motorcycle is giving me a ride. I successfully arrived at Horizon Homestay, voted number 1 on Trip Advisor. When i was about to pay him, he declined. He told me that i don't need to pay for it. And just like that, Tansen is surprising me with the unbelievable kindness of people. There are more stories coming up tomorrow after i walked around Tansen today. Here in this photo, i met my new found friends from Tansen. It's always a delight to know that Nepali people are the friendliest in the world.

I just ate a good serving of Mushroom Dahl Bat with the family, and i am super stuffed. We call it "ukus-mukus" in Nepali. Look at the clock, it's almost 9PM. It's almost time to sleep. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Travel Notes from Pokhara-Tansen ( Palpa), Nepal Part 1

After a week, i've finally left Pokhara. Oh, this city.

It's great to break your journey and stay in big cities like Pokhara or Kathmandu. When you've missed your grilled beef and your fish fillet, it's nice to know these big cities offer creature comforts. Yet, staying too long can make your mind uneasy. Staying here that long is not part of my plan. After successfully refreshing my visa a week ago, i wanted to relax for a bit. After the extreme trekking done at Ramkot nearby Bandipur, i knew i wanted to do nothing in Pokhara. 

I spent my days in solitude. I wake up late, eat brunch, hit the shower, walk around, find a quiet spot by the lake, read my book, get back to hotel to get ready for dinner. Sometimes, i would go out for drinks but that's getting expensive, and unhealthy, too. 

Arjun Panday is the manager of Hotel Family Home, and has been a good friend of mine since last year. I entrusted my stay in Pokhara with him, and i only reaped amazing experiences because of it that's why i came back.

This morning, i saw him for the last time as i am finally leaving Pokhara for Tansen. With a promise that i will be back, i had to thank him for the warm welcome, and excellent service. Without a doubt, staying at Hotel Family Home was good value. He gave me an awesome price for a big room with balcony, and most of the time when i come back, the staff never fails to greet me with a warm and endearing Namaste. The occassional black-outs were a bummer. But anywhere in Nepal, this happens a lot so by this time i got used to it. What's awesome, though, is even if there is no electrcity, there is WiFi, so anytime of the day, i am connected.

Most of the planning for my activities for the day happen at a nearby eatery. Rose Garden and Restaurant is such good value for money as well. There's a good variety of food you can order from the manager. And the best fried rice i've eaten in my whole stay of Nepal came from this restaurant. It's that good that i usually eat twice a day, one special set for breakfast with magnanimous serving of toast bread, cornflakes, sunny side up eggs, masala tea, orange juice, and Nepali spiced potato, and my vegetable fried rice with egg either for lunch or dinner. She also gives the best suggestions for places to go, things to do, and the dreaded public transportation directions aroung Pokhara. Before i left Pokhara this morning, i had to say goodbye and promise to come back soon. Her smile is infectious, and you know here intentions are genuine. I waved goodbye at the staff, and moved on with my rucksack and memories of good times in Pokhara.

The other day, walking around in Pokhara, was a time for short realizations. In such a beautiful city lies a truth. One man asked for an orange, a couple of Masala chips. I gave the man my bottled water but he declined. He cannot speak a word, nor his actions were sane. He sat next to me. I felt the real Pokhara is showing. While everybody is tryng to shoo him away, i never left him. I stayed because i knew it was the right thing to do. The view from the lake is astonishing, but i felt the reality is something more precious. 

Walking around endless shops of gems, prayer flags and fake North Face, you'll stumble upon men selling fruits. The smell and sight of fresh pomegranate and oranges were enough to make me second look. I felt really bad for the sales that day were very low. I saw this young man who offered me some fruits. I already bought some from another man. But i had to come back to give this man some sale. I paid 150 rupees for one pomegranate which was too expensive. Yet, i feel this was my best purchase so far. Seeing this man light up when i handed over my bill was enough for me to say i just made someone happy. When was the last time you made someone happy?

So, yeah. That has been my trip to Pokhara so far. I also got a haircut from one of the barber shops. I think they have a different price for foreigners. Eitherway, i got an awesome Nepali haircut, and a good shave, too -- all for less than 500 rupees. So it has been an evenftul day for me. 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Travel Notes from Pokhara, Nepal

There are only two places in Pokhara which i haven't visited the last time i was here: The Mountain Museum and Gurkha Museum. Both of which fascinated me because i am a big fan of the himalayas and the most-feared soldiers in the world - the Gurkhas. This time around, i had more time in my hands so i was able to negotiate a cheaper taxi cost to visit both, though not on the same day. Along with my Korean friend whose bargaining skills is exceptional, off we go. I found the Mountain Museum more thorough with the collection. Amidst the 400 rupee entrance fee, i was able to read about all the highest peaks in and around Nepal, the amazing duo of Hillary and Tenzing Norgaray, and even watch a short documentary about the fabulous set of mountains. I spent more time here, and the taxi driver was a bit bothered but spending 1 hour here is totally impossible, minimum is 2. 

The mountain view today wasn't so clear. In some days, the peaks were so vibrantly displayed in confidence. In an effort to veer away from the usual places like Devis Falls, Peace Pagoda, and even the Tibetan Settlement which luckily, i was all able to go to last time, it's definte that i must see places i de-prioritized the last time. 

The Gurkha Museum, meanwhile, was more quiet, more dark and less appealing. However, the prestige of my idols was the main focal point for my visit here. Going to the Gurkha Museum here in Pokhara was inevitable, and totally non-negotiable. I paid 200 rupees to get in, and took my time reading about the different infantries, missions, and even winter gears of soldiers. The people manning the place were very quiet. It seems that they don't get as many visitors as the former, but still worthy to go to. I bought a couple of Gurkha print outs which was surprisingly cheap as souvenirs. In the photo above, i asked my taxi driver to get the shot, standing tall and proud with the place that commemorates the best of the best. It says, "Better to die than be a coward." And with that, the principle has enveloped my mind for days now. 

Pokhara is still beautiful, if not the most beautiful city in Nepal. The airis much cleaner, temperature more relaxing, and the views are phenomenal. It simply is the most romantic place in Nepal. Accommodations vary depending on your budget. I am staying here at Hotel Family Home, tucked in a quiet corner away from the noise of the lake side. It's not as cheap as some hotels, but i am more comfortable here with a bigger room, hot shower, and fantastic views of the mountains. So everday, i could see through if the weather is clear so i can plan out my activities for the day. Arjun is the enterprising manager of this hotel, He has become busy, but his professionalism exudes. A year later since i stayed here, not much has changed except for a few improvements. When i arrived in Pokhara last time, i had a lot of time in the morning as my flight arrived a little after 8AM. I went for a walk and scoured for hotels with good views. My number 1 requirements is a balcony where i can watch the mountain all day, an airy room that's not less than 15sqm, and friendly people. I didn't care much about how comfortable the bed is or how hot the shower may be. But of course, it's a bonus. I am glad, i am back here. And it seems, this hotel has a very good standing on TripAdvisor already. Makes me think i made the right choice in the first place. 

I arrived at the morning, and saw Arjun right away. With a big hug after a year, he escorted me back to the room where i stayed in. He said, "never leave again."

During the afternoon, i always have pleasant walks around the lake. And every photo of Fewa Tal seems like a cut out from a National Geoghrapic book. The endless mountain range overlooking a blanket of thin shimmering waters. At the lake, the view of Annapurna becomes optional. The sunset here is amazing. And then, as the sun is about to set, the cool breeze of the night starts to creep in. 

Never fails. Whenever i am in Pokhara, i'm at my laziest. The weather is so good that at mornings, it's hard to resist getting off bed. Usually,  i play some tunes and read about where to go next. But last night, i bought a couple of books - Nepalese Customs and Manners, and a bunch of Nepales Folk Tales to keep me busy at some days when i don't feel like roaming around. I also bought a DVD documentary of Nepal, and the infamous photo where all mountains are named and captioned so i won't get confused anymore. 

Still here in Pokhara after almost a week. Namaste, everyone!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Travel Notes from Bandipur-Pokhara, Nepal

There are moments when i think about the family that i stayed in Bandipur. Now that i am here in Pokhara, after successfully refreshing my visa, i think about them more. Pokhara has always been beautiful, and will always be that charming city outside of Kathmandu. Yet, Bandipur will always hold a special place in my heart. Up until now, people always question why i stayed that long in the tiny village. 

The day that i left was one of the saddesst experiences of my trip in Nepal so far. When you've shared so much moments with people, it's hard to forget them. It's hard to move on. But one of the cons of traveling is leaving. Whether it be another city, or another country. But like an open road, the only way to go is to move forward. 

I woke up on one of the coldest mornings of my stay in Bandipur. As usual, the view of the himalayas was outstanding but the air was quiet. I felt that the place is also weeping for i am leaving. I am leaving Bandipur with so much more than when i arrived. I've learned the best lesson and that is the unwavering love and support of a family. I talked to my family last night, and let them know that i am staying longer here in Nepal. My original plan of going to Bhutan and Bangladesh is already a thing of the past. It only took a supposedly side-trip to Bandipur to let me realize that spending so much money visiting the previous countries could be postponed for another trip. But now that i am here, it's inevitable to stay. 

To say that tears rolled down my eye when i was saying goodbye was the truth. I told them that i am not a fan of goodbyes. Yet, i faltered. It was like leaving my family all over again. And as i write this, i still imagine myself at the porch. Rukum would ask me what i want to eat for lunch, and my energy will never exhaust as i climb again the ridge to Ramkot. The infinite smiles of the people of Bandipur is simply contagious. The view is awesome here in Pokhara, but there's something missing. 

Before i left, Rukum's wife gave me a flower --a symbol of safe journeys ahead which i will treasure for the rest of my life. I am keeping it my notebook. I haven't written anything yet on my simple notebook. The flower may just be my very first post, indeed.

I waited long for the bus to be filled up. And after almost an hour of sitting motionless, it was time for me to go. it felt good that Samira had new guests coming in. I just hoped and prayed that they will return the kindness of Rukum's family. 

I still have a long journey ahead of me. It all started with my original plan to stay in Nepal for a few days. Now, i am on my third week in this blessed nation, and i know i am still far away from leaving. 

I waved at them for the very last time. It's one of those that i will never tire telling. 

To Rukum's family, thank you for making me feel less lonely that i am not with my family seeing the beauty of Bandipur. For i have found another family in each and everyone of you. My sincerest thanks and appreciation for a beautiful trip.

As promised, i will come back. Ooppps, Rukum just sent me a message on Facebook. The question is , "when will i come back?". Let me figure out first how to go to Palpa and Lumbini. I have no idea. I am also excited to go to Terai region. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Travel Notes from Ramkot to Bandipur, Nepal

Writing this post is a bit sad. The weather here in Pokhara is awful, and i miss Bandipur with all my heart. It has not been easy leaving a place after almost 2 weeks. I've never stayed any place i've traveled in the past seven years that long. There something about Bandipur that never fails to make me smile. Maybe, it's the old lady at the store where i always buy my daily pack of Surya, among other essentials. Maybe, it's the kids near the ridge helping their mothers uncover rocks to be sold at the bazaar. Maybe, it's the unfathomable coldness of the air in the early morning. Maybe, it's the gas-enabled water heater which i always fearfully operate that could totally blast me away any second. Maybe, it's the Dahl Bat and chicken noodle soup lovingly made for two hours by Rukum's wife. Maybe, i was born here in my past life, that's why coming here never felt as if i was traveling. It felt like a homecoming. 

The days pass by more, and i would see myself sitting on the cobbled steps kicking in the remaining sunlight of the day. As any local would do, i would chat for a bit and walk to mountains, and ridges, and then some more. I will smile finding the last glimpse of the snow-capped mountains from Tundikhel or my porch. People might think that my days have been boring. My days have never been this fruitful. 

The other day, i finally reached the tiny village of Ramkot where traditional living still exists. Women wear drapery on clothing, and too many rings on their flat edged nose, and sounds of wild boar emanate from each house's backyard. Then, there's the view from thr backyard where a full speck of sunlight beaming over the most beautiful mountain ranges you can ever see in your life. 

It took me long three hours of endless walking up and down the tiny ridge pathway. It took me again, another set of hours coming back. Most of the time, i was there alone --helpless and in solitude as i admire the gaze of pine trees and wood-burned from another village. My face has been so hit by sunlight that i manage to turn my skin tone from dark brown to dark red in less than a day. Obviously not equipped for the ardous trek, i find myself giving up most of the time. Yet, whenever i think about the people whom i will share intimate stories back home always light up my less happy hours. I hitched the trek with these two boys whom are bestfriends for life. I was beginning to feel ill, and told them of my condition. I've felt loved and well-taken cared off. They patiently waited for me to catch my breath. And little did i know, the thousand weird questions they throw at me, made sense. They were trying to make me feel as if time passes by easily. "See, that's Bandipur!" --after more than two hours of flight of stairs passing by another remote village where a volleyball tent is the only recreational activity there is. I am writing this down so i won't forget. For once in my life, i felt i needed to prove myself that i can do it. No matter how hard the battle is, i know i can. I believed in myself, and i know that God, Buddha, Allah and whoever God i have called have all protected me from the serious threat of falling on a thousand meter cliff. 

I've never felt more happy upon reaching the ridge that i just happen to walk to everyday. I know Samira Homestay is only but a few minutes away. As i write this, i couldn't thank the two boys for helping me out reach my destination safely. I asked them what they want to drink when they get to town. Yet, they declined. The boy didn't tell his parents where he's going so he needed to be back home before supper. I saw him the other day, and the only reward i can give him is my highest respect and gratitude. They declined when i asked them if i could take their picture. Regardless, their faces are etched in my heart for life. 

With feet full of blisters and wounds, i wound up to the store. I asked the old lady to give me a bottle of  water. My body is sore, and my muscles in pain. I saw Rukum from afar, and he embraced me right there and then. He wanted to take my photo as i was wearing a Topi all throughout the journey paying my respects to this beautiful country. He waved at me, and said "You belong Here!"

It seemed, i had to go through this ordeal to prove myself that i am now part of the community. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Travel Notes from Patali Dwar, Nepal

There is no day here in Bandipur thaat i do my afternoon stroll. Some days, i would walk to the villages and just hang-out--taking in all the sights and smells of this fabulous town. Very little has been told about how Bandipur is really in person as most travelers head straight from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Yet, if only they knew about Bandipur and how the view is unlike anywhere else in Nepal, then i reckon they would go, too. I've been here in Bandipur for quite a while. Each day that passes by, i am becoming more and more familar with my neighbors. The homestay next to ours at Samira called Milan is offering 300 rupees per night, yet when i met Rukum, the owner of Samira, i knew i was home. He is like a father/brother to me. And i really appreciate the effort he has put on my journey to discovery. 

His life story is very interesting. I can see in his eyes how much love he has has for his family. He has only been in town for less than 2 months now, after a very long stint working in Dubai. His wife whom i call di-di all the time, the word stands for older sister, is the best cook in the world. She has turned me from a curry hater to a lover in just a day. Anything that she cooks is just totally impeccable. Although she doesn't speak english as good as Rukum, i could totally understand her. Her wisdom emanates from a mile long. 

On some lazy days, my neighbors will always find me sitting at the porch drinking my masala tea and puffing a cigarette. It has always been like this for more than a week now, and i couldn't ask for more, The view from the homestay is nothing i've ever imagined. It was simply beautiful. 

By this time now, my family's wondering where the hell i am. I am pretty sure, they're awaiting for my arrival back home. I will of course, soon. But for now, i am totally enjoying the peace and wisdom i am gaining with each day i stay. I have learned so much that i know i will treasure for the rest of my life. The road is long, and i am still at the beginning. There's many more adventures awaiting for me. I know deep in their hearts, they understand. 

As i admire the view from the west of this beautiful town in Nepal called Bandipur, i realize more and more how fortunate i am to be able to enjoy my youth in the most perfect place on earth. I also met a Korean traveler who's just waiting for his final ascent to Everest in a few weeks. I am totally excited for him. I am not, in anyway, physically ready for that kind of adventure. Although, it is a dream. But dreams do come true anyway so i am still hopeful. 

After the daylight, i relax in my room for a bit and continue reading about Nepal. Up until now, the final draft of the constitution has not been written yet. Eversince this country turned into a democracy, the fate of the people generously relies on the constituion so people can adhere. The more i read about this country, the less i feel intimidated. My thoughts of Bangladesh and Bhutan has vanished for now. 

Suddenly, i hear a familar voice. "Jerik, Jerik.." --in a very thick Nepalese accent. Rukum says, my now ultimate favorite Dahl Bat is cooked and while it's still hot, i need to eat asap. I will join the family in the kitchen. As everyone is gathered, i chow down the most delicious food in this moment i will never forget for the rest of my life. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Travel Notes from Ramkot, Nepal

The sounds of goats, dogs and locals chatting have all been music to my ears now. I dread the day that i have to leave this beautiful town. It's been days since i arrived here and not one single day have i thought of heading to Pokhara just yet. It seems i found my soulmate here. It's the people. It's the Annapurna. It's the friendly smiles, and endearing greetings. Its the short walk up and down the village. It's the Tuborg in the afternoon. It's the immeasurable steps high up in another fantastic mountain. Although the unfathomable temperature is quite a bummer, i resist heading south for warmer locale. 

The man behind Samira Guest House is the most generous person i know. He makes the effort to make me feel less lonely. Perhaps, he hasn't heard of solo travelers so he thinks that i am spending my days here in sorrow. To be frank, i wouldn't change a thing. Now that i am here, i am quite at peace with myself, and the surroundings surely make up for it. 

After getting my ass off the comfortable bed, i went for a hike up to Ramkot. Although my camera battery died on me halfway, that didn't bother me to simply admire at the beautiful scenery my eyes have been seeing for days. I saw a couple of kids playing with broken logs along the ridge near the nerve-wracking cliff. I wonder how, it has made it seem for these fortunate people to be playing with the gods of nature. The boy, amazed in wonder, asked if he could press the shutter button of my camera. And so he did, multiple times. I believe he has taken his first photo. Not bad for a young man whose only source of joy is playing with broken twigs and plants. 

It's funny how unfortunate life is here in rural Nepal. You see thousands of travelers to Nepal suited with the most modern heat tech gear, and staying at hundred dollar guest houses. They will go to a cafe and talk amongs themselves, ocassionally greeting passers-by with a few seconds of immersion with the locals. Then, they go back to the daily grind, preparing for the trek the next day. They hike up the mountain, reach the summit, take tons of photos, and come back home tired. Although these experiences are worthwhile to some, my admission is that these fade in your memory bank. The moments such as seeing a boy whose fondness for cameras cannot be detered or helping out in a kitchen home preparing ingredients make the trek to the summit of Everest such a cliche thing to do. 

There's more to the highest mountains or the deepest gorges, there's the magnanimous serving of dahl baht served the other night that i couldn't finish yet i managed to clean my plate in an instant because the effort and time put into serving the plate, makes up for it.

The homestay has finally received guests, local celebrities in their own rights. One is a Radio DJ, the other is newscaster. I just spent an amazing time with these two people, as we down some more Dahl Bahts, while discussing more of this beautiful country, and cricket. Nepal won in Division 2. But wait, how the hell do you play cricket?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Travel Notes from Bandipur, Nepal

Yey! I'm on my 10th day traveling. I am currently here in Bandipur, and trying to base myself here for a while. I always take it a day at a time. If i like a place, i stay long, err longer. I've been here for almost half a week. Bandipur is indeed the most beautiful place i've visited in Nepal for two years now. I am staying at a homestay called Shamira, and paying 800 rupees per night with gobsmacking views of the Annapurna. You can't beat that with the price. 

For days now, i find myself waking up late, and briefly walking up and down the tiny village in the morning. It seems everyone knows everyone here. I immediately felt that when i rode the bus from Dumre. The kids were playing the flute, and neighbors somehow find time to crack jokes. It was the day before the national strike, so i made it in time here. With no visible transportation on the road, the calm roads emerge. 

The owner of the house i'm staying has an impeccable character. He took me around town, stopping by houses, sitting at benches at one time, and drinking ginger tea at a house on another. His extended family all live in the same village, so i never felt more at ease here. The trek up Tundikhel is a breeze, and i always make it a point to to visit early in the morning and late afternoon to admire the view. 

Lonely Planet hits on this one right, the location of Bandipur is out of this world. It has the best vantage point to see Annapurna. Actually, at any time of the day, i can see it. And the room where i am staying at has that view also. 

Last night, i was served the biggest Dahl Bat meal i've had in my life. The wife kept on putting food in my plate, and it seems hard to resist. So after downing the plate, and thinking about how i ate 3 meals worth. Like a lazy traveler, i slept that night soundly full.

Bandipur is such a nice place to walk at whichever direction you pursue. I have a thousand photos with me now, so it's good i brought too many memory cards. 

The son of the owner is on his 10th grade, and he's busy studying for the exams but todays everything is on hold because of the public holiday. The Gurung Caste is celeberating a nationwide parade now. Where is my caste party??? ha ha

The kids here are amazing, and toys made up of bamboo sticks and plants prove their resourcefullness. I was reading about the culture of this country, and found out that about 80% of the toal population live on the $2 per day expenses. Amidts the hardships these people have to go through every single day, i can feel the warmth and sweetness from the people. One of the real reasons why Nepal is so close to my heart is because i can see the Filipinos in most of them. The faithful, easy-going type never fails to make me think how close home this is. 

It's close to noon today, and a few hours earlier i had pancakes and scrambled eggs. And i must say, the tastiest i've ever had in weeks. Since today is a holiday, i am thinking of simply relaxing and bonding with the villager kids. Everyone's playing around and i wished i brought some toys with me to share with them. 

Annapurna is slightly disfigured at the moment, while yesterday it was full on. Maybe, i'll try to visit Tundikhel again in the afternoon. i told the owner, i have no plans of leaving Bandipur yet. He said, "stay for a year". To be honest, it's not such a bad idea. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Travel Notes from Kakani, Nepal

I am standing on an edge of a cliff here in Kakani. One of the most beautiful places in the valley fringe. Lonely planet says Kakani is the quiter cousin of Nagarkot and Dhulikel. I was looking for off the beaten path destinations, and Kakani seems like a probable candidate. I left Kathmandu rather late, and arrived at the new bus station or as locals call "bypass". The bus never came, so i opted to ride a taxi instead so i can roam around Kakani freely. The taxi driver and I agreed to 2000 rupees for a four-hour trip around the mountains. 

It was great that i chose a taxi as buses are hard to come by this side of the town. I saw five English people who were stranded in the mountains as no buses go down to Kathmandu anymore. It didn't help that the nation-wide transportation strike is coming up real soon. 

Kakani is the smallest town i've ever visited. And it took me less than 15 minutes to walk around the bazaar. But the air in Kakani is different. It feels like being transported back in time, and as usual, i was the apple of the eye of many. People stare at me in amazement as i couldn't speak Nepalibut ilook like the person next to me. This is a reminder for me that the next time i come back to Nepal, i have to learn a few phrases so i can get by flawlessly.

After a short trail up to the picnic spot, i stood in amazement how vast the mountain range is. I ordered Nepali tea together with my driver. And we finished our drink in a few minutes. I wanted to walk around a bit more, so we ended up at the memorial park where a hundred plus passengers of Thai Airways crashed near the town. It is totally peaceful there, and no tourist in sight. I really wanted to check out the town, and so i walked to the far end north and south, capitalizing on the amazing views this town holds. On my way down to Kathmandu, i asked the driver to stop so i could watch farmer tending the terraces. It's such a sight to behold. I have hundreds of photos with me. The trip up and down Kakani is mind-blowing.

When i arrived back at the hotel, i met a traveler who wanted to interview me for a book she's writing. As i try to warm my hands in the mini fire place, she asked me about the most beautiful place or experience i have had. The next day, we proceeded with the interview. And it was liberating to share my thoughts.

By the way, my hands are freezing as i type this post. I am already here in Bandipur. I arrived last night at a homestay called Samira. The owner/manager is really friendly, and we went for a walk early this morning. Dare i say, Bandipur is the most beautiful place in Nepal. I'll write about this place really soon. I am taking a bath in a few minutes so i could take more photos of people here, and head to Thundikel so i could take a time-lapse of the Annapurna range during sunset, Everyone is so friendly. It'll be hard to leave this place for sure.